Defining Twice Exceptional


I reread one of my biggest posts every so often to see if it needs changing – What Exactly is 2e Anyway?  It’s the first post I’ve ever had go somewhat-viral (over 1K shares, but I’ve lost track now because I blanked out the register multiple times due to technical stupidity.)   It makes me smile a little because our lives are so similar but so different now.

In the blogging world, I’m a baby blogger.  Still, even looking back these few years, I can see the progression of our challenges.  2e is still there – the issues are still there – but our challenges have changed and expanded as the kids grow older.


The same definition:

The definition of 2e obviously hasn’t changed: twice exceptional means an individual who is gifted, with additional learning disabilities or special needs.   Our labels keep growing as we discover and learn more about our oldest son’s needs: his current alphabet soup includes ADHD, Anxiety, and Sensory Processing Disorder.  He’s doing vision therapy for vision issues, and we believe he needs speech therapy as well for what looks like Auditory Processing Disorder.

2e for another child might look completely different.  The only constant is that they’re above average with extra challenges – challenges that can hold them back from reaching their goals and potential.


What 2e looks like for us now

As I look back on the last few years, it’s amazing how far we’ve come.   He’s doing so much better with the sensory issues.  He’s learned coping skills, self-advocacy, and his self-esteem is much stronger.  The sensory issues haven’t gone away, of course.  He chewed through a chewelry necklace in less than a week, and now he’s happily chomping on another one that was initially deemed too hard.  I do mean chomp – like he’s energetically chewing gum.

The impulse issues are still there, but they manifest in different ways.  Like his disrespect during a camping trip this weekend, when told to help carry the chairs back to the car.  “Carry your own F—— chairs!” he told me – my response was difficult, given that I wanted to laugh soooo badly because he used the word correctly in an appropriate situation.  Just like a mini adult.  (He got an earful for being so disrespectful – the language wasn’t as bad as the complete lack of responsibility.)


Things are changing

It’s hard.  When they’re young, they’re cute and innocent and lovable.  As they start to grow up, get bigger, and challenge us in different ways, their precociousness isn’t cute any more.  It’s threatening.  It’s frustrating.  It’s always been frustrating, of course, but most of the adults in the Engineer’s life don’t enjoy being challenged or frustrated by him.  His leash is shorter – that level of tolerance people are willing to give him.

It’s “normal” for toddlers to have a temper tantrum.  It’s not normal for a 7-year-old to have one, or hide under a table when he’s upset.  People notice – people judge – people disapprove more.  They say more.  They judge us parents more.


I see, even when no one else does

I see the progress.  I see how much he’s grown.  Everyone else sees defiance and disrespect.  They hear the constant chatter and noise.  They don’t see what I see.

They don’t walk into his room and find a complex marble track  mid-design – hanging from his loft bed!  They don’t see him voluntarily give up his favorite spoon to his little brother because he knows the Destroyer will get upset.  They don’t see him stopping his siblings from running out of the door when I can’t get there in time – showing a level of responsibility I’m not used to seeing.

They don’t see how anxieties cripple him – how literally everything he struggles with is tainted with anxiety in one form or another.   They don’t understand my kid – and I can’t expect them to.


Growing up

As the Engineer gets older, the aspect of twice exceptionality shifts.  It gets deeper, broader, wider.  He’s going from little kid to a thoughtful young adult right before my eyes.  His questions are harder – the answers are never easy.  His depth of understanding is deeper than I generally realize, and he will try to explain concepts to me and get frustrated because I don’t get it.  I’m keeping up  for now – barely.  We’re fast approaching the point that I can’t.

I’m ok with that.  That I can’t keep up – that he will surpass me in so many ways.  I don’t feel the need to compete with my kids or prove that I’m better – because I’m not.  I might be wiser or more experienced, but their young brains are faster and more competent than mine will ever be at this point.  It’s not a competition.



Defining twice exceptionality for us is a mess – a hodge-podge of acronyms, questions, and doubts.  All gifted kids are different, and they all have different challenges.  When you add in the exceptionalities for 2e, complicated is an understatement.

So, as always, I define giftedness as “more.”  Twice exceptional is “more” as well, but broader, with “more” challenges.  It’s our complex life – our normal.  Especially because it keeps changing!



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